By 2030 smart robotics and AI tools will have taken over the world. People all over the globe and statistics haven’t stopped talking about robotics all year. According to Statista, the largest segment of robotics belongs to robo-advisors which are expected to reach 255 bl. dollars market by 2020. The list of robotics markets includes various segments like autonomous cars, personal and care-bots, industrial robots, logistics, packaging, and materials, etc. The estimates provided by Statista really impress. Artificial intelligence breaks into our homes and lives. What does it mean for humans? What does robotics mean for different economies? How will it influence the world we live in? Robotics in e-commerce – that’s what about our article.
Problems and Challenges in the E-commerce Industry
Among the main challenges of e-commerce retailers are currently concerns expressed regarding how to adjust the fulfillment requirements to deal with the problems of growth in online ordering. What’s more impressive is that this growth can’t be predicted. According to Opex, some fulfillment firms reach their goals set for 5-10 years just in 2 years and outgrow their warehouses. Below are the key fulfillment challenges:
- A great number of stock keeping units (SKU)
- Orders containing a handful of pieces
- Extreme workloads during peak seasons
- Market demands that are constantly changing
- Expectations of customers to get their orders within 24-48 hours
- A significant amount of returns
To meet these challenges, the e-commerce industry should be ready to scale up its efforts to optimize spaces and improve the management of working tools. Automation can become a solution to online retailers.
Solutions to Meet the Challenges
Unlike large suppliers, S&M online retailers are not automated. Usually, they use a traditional person-to-goods model to pick and pack their goods. In such systems, inventory is actually messy. This method worked for a long time. Due to multiple stocking keep units, it no longer works. It takes much time for the pickers to walk around, find, and pick up the needed units. Therefore, retailers are looking for the new ways to save time and increase the productivity of every single picker.
Picking the orders is one of the most important stages in the fulfillment process. It is one of the most time-consuming activities as well that’s why it should be automated. Besides, to meet the customers’ needs, all the processes should be done effectively and efficiently.
To enhance the productivity of every picker it’s crucial to reduce the time of the picking process. Automation can help retailers minimize the touch points. As a result, the orders will be accurately processes and the picking time will be reduced. For S&M businesses, however, automation may seem to be very expensive. But modern automation options can greatly reduce the costs for fulfillment operations. If you are on your way to automation, here are the key criteria to take into account:
- Automation must lead to higher productivity, waste reduction, and accuracy.
- The technology of your choosing must be scalable and flexible.
- It must have a reasonable price and a short-term ROI.
- It must be implemented quickly and integrated with other systems.
What is Actually Smart Robotics? Warehouse Automation
Smart robotics are actually machines that are able to collaborate and interact with humans, learn from their behavior, and work together with them. An example of smart robotics is goods-to-person systems that are gaining popularity among retailers. Let’s see how it works. Goods are stored in the totes. The totes, on the other hand, are placed in retrieval systems (RS) and automated storage (AS). As a picker needs an order to be fulfilled, he gets his SKU at a pick&pack station automatically. What does it mean for e-commerce? First off, a picker doesn’t have to walk and search for the required unit. Secondly, the totes save much space, time, and consequently, money. Thirdly, these systems facilitate accuracy – the are no chances that the picker gets wrong.
Pros and Cons of Smart Robotics Implementation in E-commerce
As for any other industry, robotics has its pros and cons for the e-commerce industry. Below are lists of key advantages and disadvantages of smart machines for the warehouses:
- Simplifying operations
- Minimizing breakdowns
- Lower operating costs
- Enhanced throughput
- Accessibility to all the SKUs
- High performance
- Simultaneous storage
- Energy efficiency
- The high efficiency of delivering
- Scalability and flexibility
- Complexity when using conveyors, transfers, and lifts
- The need for parts replacement
- The possibility of slowdowns because of complexity
- Expensive machines
As you can see, compared with the number of disadvantages, smart robotics offers more benefits to e-commerce companies. For S&M retailers that want to streamline their business, automated systems can add value and offer a solution that is able to meet all the challenges high costs for operations, much time for pick and pack activities, human factor errors, etc.
Irina Kravchenko is a content writer for Diceus, a technology partner for developing enterprise solutions. She is passionate in her belief that useful content is of great importance. Irina writes mostly on software development and marketing topics.